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Contactless Transactions Are Having Their Moment


The word contactless is everywhere. In response to the pandemic, customers’ desire not to touch anything has risen from that-would-be-nice to must-have, and restaurants, hotels, casinos and theme parks are responding accordingly. Offering guests the ability to place orders and book experiences via mobile and digital, and to fulfill orders as touchlessly as possible is now seen as a key sales driver.

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Contactless can refer specifically to near-field communication (NFC) transactions such as those made via EMV bank cards featuring an integrated-circuit chip or via mobile wallet technology, which is now offered by Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Apple, Google, Samsung and a number of major retailers including clouded-loop mobile wallets by Walmart and Starbucks. More broadly, contactless can mean placing and fulfilling orders online or via mobile without “material contact” — from ordering pizza to booking and checking into a hotel.

Here, we share some of the latest options for contactless payments, mobile capability, new opportunities for data collection and loyalty, and some of the major suppliers whose services are transforming guest experiences.


A Safer Way to Pay

While contactless payment capability has been around for more than two decades, and has steadily grown in popularity among consumers and businesses for its convenience and efficiency, the health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have proved to be a turning point in its adoption. Paper money has long been understood to carry pathogens from the multitude of hands through which is passes, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently reported that even the traditional means of electronic transactions, such as plastic payment devices and bank cards, may harbor the novel coronavirus for up to 72 hours.

The National Restaurant Association’s guidance for restaurants seeking to reopen suggests that they “Use technology where possible to reduce person-to-person interaction, including mobile ordering, menu tablets, texts on arrival for seating, and contactless payment.”

With health and safety top of mind, customers prefer not to press buttons, sign touchscreens, position a payment terminal, or hand a bank card to a restaurant or hotel employee. No wonder a recent survey by Mastercard found that 51% of Americans use contactless payments regularly. The research also suggests the U.S. has plenty of room for growth in this regard — worldwide, nearly eight in 10 people report regularly using contactless payment technology. Tap-to-pay solutions, especially those made with EMV bank cards (the cards with an integrated-circuit, or “IC,” chip and a Wi-Fi icon displayed on the front), are gaining in popularity, with nearly one-third of Americans reporting that they prefer to use their contactless cards to conventional magnetic-strip debit and credit cards, which require swiping and a signature. In a dine-in restaurant, using a tap-to-pay card or a mobile wallet such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, or one offered by the major credit card companies, with a pay-at-the-table device, such as those developed by TableSafe (, allows for a completely touchless experience.


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Mobile Solutions: Quick & Easy

When it comes to transactions via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, “quick and easy” is one of the major appeals to consumers — allowing guests to interact with a restaurant or hotel from anywhere. But “quick and easy” is also an accurate way to characterize the adoption of mobile solutions by hospitality brands seeking to pivot to contactless guest experiences. Without the need for new hardware investment or upgrades, a brand can literally empower customers’ mobile devices — via a branded app or web-based platform — to provide a frictionless experience. It can begin the moment a guest starts browsing options, and continue through to placing an order or booking a room, and, in the case of hotels, even including mobile check-in, communicating with hotel staff (or a friendly AI-driven chatbot), and checkout.

Deploying a mobile solution can be surprisingly easy. SpotOn Restaurant can set up commission-free online ordering within 24 hours, including integration with POS, no fees for setup, and no software fees until January 2021. Appetize offers businesses the choice between a fully documented API and a streamlined web-based ordering system that requires no app download. Presto’s free Contactless Dining Kit allows guests to use their personal devices to scan NFC tags and QR codes to browse, order and pay, and can be set up in one day. Canary Technologies introduced a contactless check-in solution for hoteliers that can be activated in minutes: Hotels provide guests with a mobile link and instructions for verifying identify, checking in, and setting up payment, with no need to download an app and no need for any “material contact” with hotel staff. 


A Data Goldmine

In addition to boosting efficiency,  technology driving contactless transactions is a potential source of valuable data — lots of it.

A typical example: A customer who downloads a restaurants’ app and is happy with the user experience and delivery, pickup, or dine-in process, is also comfortable sharing her email address and mobile number, and generally comes to trust the restaurant to use her contact information and ordering habits to provide better, personalized service. When the restaurant sends her a push notification on her most frequently ordered menu items, she feels that her data has been used in a positive way that only deepens her trust and likelihood to frequent the restaurant.

In addition to leveraging data, contactless platforms tie into POS-based loyalty and rewards programs. Options for building loyalty include earning points or rewards for each purchase, and the ability for customers to view past orders, store preferences, and reorder favorites. 


A Gateway to Loyalty

In addition to leveraging data, contactless platforms can also lead customers seamlessly to POS-based loyalty and rewards programs. Options for building loyalty include earning points and rewards each time a customer makes a purchase, and the ability for customers to view past orders, store their preferences, and reorder favorites.


  • 20 Solution Providers to Watch

    Agilisys developed rGuest Express Mobile for hotels looking for a contactless guest experience that supports social distancing, mobile check-in, messaging when a room is ready, dining reservations, touchless room keys, identify verification, and checkout. In addition to meeting guests’ demand for distancing, the mobile and self-service also helps hotels to optimize staffing levels and productivity.

    Appetize is best known for its full set of POS solutions, and also offers exceptional mobile ordering options — including a white-label app or web-based ordering for pickup and delivery, including integration into an existing or third-party application.

    Canary Technologies provides a contactless hotel check-in solution that can be implemented within minutes, allowing hoteliers to offer guests a mobile link where they can check in without any direct content with staff.

    CBS Northstar offers several restaurant POS solutions, including mobile ordering features that allow restaurants a plug-and-play option for getting their menus online without the need for coding or the creation of an app.

    Criton can help hoteliers achieve social distancing and a touchless experience with a white-label app that can by customized to independent properties or chains and can offer guests in-app checkin, digital door key, a messaging and ordering platform, and a loyalty program. A basic version of the platform is free until 2021.

    Elo Touch Thru  is a self-service ordering and curbside delivery system that is a partnership between the touchscreen company Elo and the software company Clicksys. Customers place their orders outside a restaurant using a touchscreen that is behind a window, and their order is delivered to them curbside.

    Fortinet helps businesses to understand their most critical security risks and prioritize them. Its Cyber Threat Assessment Program can be quickly deployed by a business or its technology partner to deliver insights and strategies without impacting day-to-day operations.

    HughesON offers a wide range of digital solutions to restaurants, including digital menu boards that not only provide touchless browsing to guests but also enhance the experience with engaging media that has been shown to boost pre-order revenue and build brand loyalty and customer retention. Menu content can be created, managed and scheduled from anywhere,

    HungerRush is Revention’s online and mobile ordering system; it includes a custom white-label app designed and branded for a restaurant’s needs, remote updating of online ordering tools and settings, an unlimited number of restaurant locations, and access to key performance indicators. The mobile ordering system saves user profiles and payment information, allowing repeat customers to reorder favorites via a four-button process that takes approximately 20 seconds.

    NCR Aloha POS offers Aloha Online Ordering, a full-featured mobile restaurant ordering platform, allowing digital ordering, menu configuration, and pricing, plus marketing and management. Benefits include instant customer access to menus and ordering from wherever they are, data gathering to use in optimizing marketing and operations, efficient communications and transparency, quick and secure payments, and the option of adopting NCR’s MyMobileMoney, a stand-alone payments solution that can be used for curbside, delivery and other locations.

    NovaDine provides online and mobile ordering for restaurant chains with 50 or more locations. Its system can be configured and deployed as a turn-key stand-alone or integrated into an existing POS, and highlights include custom branding, loyalty and customer-engagement tools, push advertising and promotions, and curbside check-in.

    Onity DirectKey is a mobile access solution for hotel chains, allowing contactless check-in and property access. Guests securely download their assigned key to a smartphone via the hotel’s loyalty app, allowing them to completely bypass the front desk and other potential touchpoints. DirectKey is built on a well-established credentialing system and is currently used at more than 5,000 hotels worldwide.

    Presto has put together a Contactless Dining Kit that allows restaurants of all sizes and styles to activate touchless menu, ordering, and payment via guests’ mobile devices using NFC rags and QR codes within an hour, free of charge. Other dine-in options include smartphone check-in, wait-time estimates, and seamless loyalty integration.

    Qu Beyond is offering an all-digital POS product, OrderUP, free to restaurants for the first  90 days. OrderUP requires no hardware and can launch an optimized online menu, contactless payments for pickup and delivery (including optional integration with DoorDash and Uber Eats), and marketing launch services within 72 hours — with no changes to a restaurant’s existing POS.

    SpotOn Restaurant allows restaurants to pivot within 24 hours to takeout and delivery with commission-free online or white label app-based ordering and offers full POS integration, custom menus, no setup costs, and no software fees until January 2021.

    Squirrel Systems is an innovative POS system that includes wireless portable terminals for pay-at-the-table with tap-to-pay cards and mobile wallets. Squirrel partners with several major suppliers to provide integrated off-premise ordering and pickup/delivery, loyalty programs, and data analytics.

    TableSafe offers an efficient touchless pay-at-the-table device for dine-in restaurants. Utilizing a tap-to-pay option, TableSafe gives guests complete control of the payment process, saving restaurant staff time and resources and freeing up servers to facilitate up-selling and close-outs.

    Tillster delivers online and mobile solutions designed for multi-unit restaurants, easily integrated into most major POS systems. Tillster can provide user-experience experts for design, post links to the ordering network on restaurant review sites and apps, and integrate data analytics to help customize upselling and cross-selling offers.

    Toast developed Toast Tap as a safe, secure contactless payment solution that allows guests to pay via tap, dip, or swipe bank cards or mobile wallet payments. Toast also offers mobile and online ordering, curbside and contactless delivery options (including a network of local delivery drivers), and the ability to take payments either online or via ToastGo handheld devices. 

    Up n' Go offers a convenient setup (no new hardware necessary) for restaurants looking to go touchless, leveraging mobile phone technology to streamline the check-out process, allow guests more control over their dining experience, and allow restaurants to easily remarket to guests.